Tuesday 20 March 2018

Hoof It set for life in the fast lane

Will Hayler

Hoof It handed Lee Westwood the perfect send-off when taking the Stewards' Cup on the final day of action at Glorious Goodwood.

Westwood, the world's No 2 golfer, travels to the United States today to prepare for the final Major of the year, the US PGA, by lining up in this week's world championship in Akron, Ohio. But he has a few extra dollars in his pocket after the emphatic victory of the horse he co-owns with his manager, Chubby Chandler, and the winning trainer, Mick Easterby.

In box nine of the Richmond Stand, the celebrations seemed to have already begun before the race, but that excitement came with justification as the 13/2 joint-favourite, ridden by Kieren Fallon, had one of the most competitive contests of the whole season in the bag from soon after halfway.

There have been winners by greater distances than the two and a half lengths by which Hoof It finished in front of Tax Free, but few have registered such a comprehensive success while carrying 10st. Dandy Nicholls, trainer of the runner-up, could only say, "That's some pony, that."

Easterby had been eyeing the Portland Handicap at Doncaster's St Leger meeting, but Hoof It's days in such contests are now numbered and York's Nunthorpe Stakes is likely to be next on the agenda.

"Lee's not here because he's got a job to do and he's focusing on that, but he's phoned me already and he's very excited," said Chandler.

"We would like to have a go at all sorts -- Hong Kong, Paris or wherever, as we travel a lot anyway. You never know with Mick. He could be entered in a donkey race next week."

Easterby described the winner as being better than his 1976 Nunthorpe winner Lochnager.

"He wants another year on his back and he'll be unbeatable," he said. "He's a very, very good horse."

Henry Cecil sent out Midday to land the week's other Group One contest, the Nassau Stakes after Wednesday's win with Frankel.

Long before Frankel, Cecil's prowess as a trainer was often most effectively demonstrated by his ability to carve out long and distinguished careers for fillies and mares. Midday is very much old Cecil. In victory, she became the first mare to win the race three times in the race's 170-year history.

"And it should have been more, really, as she's been a bit unlucky two or three times," chipped in the trainer.

Future plans for Midday are uncertain. Although she has been to the Breeders' Cup for the past two years, Cecil is lukewarm over the prospect of a return to Churchill Downs, where she met with narrow defeat last year.

"People keep saying that I am good with fillies, but I have been very lucky," he added. "If the horses are bad then I am a bad trainer, whereas, when you have good horses, everything is marvellous. It hurts, but it is the truth."

The Toyo Tires Summer Stakes was an incident-packed contest, with Captain John Nixon unfortunately suffering a serious injury with rivals Activate and Verdant brought down in the ensuing melee.

Icon Dream was on the front end for a long time and put up a bold bid for victory but he was mowed down late on by the Robert Mills-trained 12/1 shot Petara Bay, ridden by Jim Crowley.

"A two-mile trip is really his optimum, but I was more concerned about the ground," Mills said.

"He is a half-brother to Nathaniel and has a fantastic pedigree, but he has been plagued by injury."

Jamie Spencer, the rider of Activate, escaped relatively unharmed as did both horses.

However, Verdant's rider Ryan Moore was not so lucky with the three-times champion jockey sustaining a broken humerus and thumb.


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